Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.
January 30, 2014 at 6:07 AM
Kenneth Bae’s family attends SOTU, seeks more help
Good on Washington’s congressional delegates for meeting this week with Kenneth Bae’s family. Here’s a link to the editorial board’s Monday editorial calling on officials in D.C. to keep up their efforts to help free the former Lynnwood resident and American tour operator from a North Korean prison, where he has been locked for nearly 15 months.
Bae’s sister, Terri Chung, his mother, Myunghee Bae and his son, Jonathan Bae, have spent the last several days raising awareness of Bae’s plight in New York City and in the nation’s capitol. On Tuesday, Chung and the elder Bae attended President Obama’s State of the Union address as the guests of U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, and U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y.
If you’re just learning about Bae’s case, watch Chung talk about her brother with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell below:
On Tuesday, the family met for the first time with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. (Scroll down to read their official statement after the talk.) One day later, both Larsen and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., sent press releases to the media promising they will continue to advocate on the family’s behalf. Murray said she will keep pressuring top U.S. State Department officials “to engage the North Korean government directly and bring Mr. Bae back to the United States.”
“I believe the ball is in the court of North Korea. They need to let the State Department know who or what kind of person needs to go to North Korea to bring Kenneth home. We can’t define that for them,” Larsen said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon.
The increased attention helps. From Beijing, China on Tuesday, Glyn Davies, the State Department’s special representative for North Korean policy, was asked by reporters about the status of efforts to secure Bae’s release. According to this agency transcript, here’s Davies’ response:
So we’ve been calling on North Korea to listen to the pleas of the family, to show clemency, grant Kenneth Bae a pardon, and allow him to return to his family. The North has, of course, arrested him, they’ve incarcerated him, tried him, convicted him, so North Korea, I think, has, made its point about Kenneth Bae. And we are in frequent communication with the North Koreans to find a resolution to this issue. It’s very, very important to us. I’ve spoken to it many times before.
After meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday, the family released the following statement:
We were honored to have the opportunity to meet with Secretary Kerry. Secretary Kerry was warm and sympathetic, and I want to thank him for affirming the commitment of the U.S. State Department to securing Kenneth’s release. We are grateful for his support, and we appreciate the ongoing efforts of many at the State Department who have been working behind the scenes for the past 15 months to bring Kenneth home.
The past week our family has received overwhelming support from people across the country. It is clear that many Americans are invested in this cause to see this fellow American come home to his family. I see the heart, soul and hard work of so many people. We will never be able to thank you enough for your kindness.
I also hope and pray that the attention and care that people are showing does not end with the publicity of today. The fact is, my brother remains in detention in DPRK (North Korea) after 15 months, the longest detention of any American in recent times. We will not rest until Kenneth is home in the United States. We continue to implore our government to do everything possible to secure Kenneth’s freedom.